First Hands Solutions’ Blak Markets will be held at La Perouse on November 5 and at Barangaroo on September 24 and December 3. More: blakmarkets.com; visitnsw.com/things-todo/aboriginal-culture. • bundyiculture.com.au • wajaanayaam.com.au • unkya.com uses, too. Its volatile bark can create an instant fire; its wood can be hewn into a canoe or a coolamon to carry food or water or a baby; its needles have medicinal value. Landy-Ariel moves to a nearby lomandra bush. “The council loves these,” she says. “See? They’ve planted them everywhere.” She plucks two of its fronds and we nibble on their bases, releasing a refreshing burst of liquid. You can get a good mouthful from the thicker ones, I’m told, and they are just like celery, rehydrating on a hot day.
The connection between Aboriginal people and the land is intricate. When a baby is born, they are given as their totem something from nature that can be seen when they appear. Landy-Ariel’s mother had seaweed and a mangrove pod; an aunty has the periwinkle.
Sadly, Landy-Ariel wasn’t given one and thankfully I don’t have as a totem the red grevillea flower. One is not allowed to eat one’s totem, and Landy-Ariel is now shaking its nectar into my hand. I lick my palm; it tastes like perfumed syrup.
Behind Cadman’s Cottage stand the colonial buildings constructed from the Gadigal people’s sandstone. Nearby, in a building on Argyle Street, we can see how pieces of shell from Aboriginal middens were used in the mortar binding together convict-made bricks.
“The natural flora and fauna was destroyed, the totems were gone,” Landy-Ariel says of the period. “Just the feeling of displacement, the whole world you’ve grown up with, the sacred knowledge ... gone. I think you would feel quite lost.”
But there’s softness in her voice, and reconciliation at the heart of these tours. Illustrating this sentiment, Landy-Ariel tells me that most Aboriginal people believe the ancestors emerged from the Mirrabooka, the Milky Way, “shedding colour, swizzing it up into the environment, placing it in the form we see it in today”.
She instructs me to place my ochre-striped hand in the